Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Getting Ready For Another Year

Our Christmas was spent having a huge amount of fun with family.  Always a great way to end 2014.

Visiting and feeding the pigs.

Picking eggs.

Visits from someone special.

Cuddles with newest family member.

Goofy fun.

Finding treasures.

The kids even got to play with Grandpa's 'new' gator.  A rather expensive toy, there.... And unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of that.

At the end of the day, there wasn't too much trouble getting the kids to go to sleep once we got them to stay still for a few minutes.

We're back home safe and sound and the decorations are put away.  There's less than a week before the kids head back to school and a few things that need to be done before that happens.  We hope to get a least a couple of them done.

Hope all of you had a wonderful holiday, too!  I'm looking forward to a new year and can't wait to share some new projects and ideas with everyone.  So many wonderful things to look forward to!

Monday, December 1, 2014


Life had been bombarding us lately.  Nothing bad, just trying to keep up with it all.  It can be a bit much at times.  (Normal life for any parent, right?)

November 4th marked the 26 month of our daughter's chemotherapy treatments for leukemia.  You can read about the last treatment here.

I thought I would share a few pictures of the journey.  It's been amazing looking back and seeing all she has gone through.  It's easy to forget sometimes how much she has endured.

The beginning.... 2 weeks before diagnosis.
The start of realizing something was really wrong. 2 days before.
Initial blood draw.
Admitted to hospital.  2 units of blood and 1 unit of platelets needed.
Port implant.
Hair loss.


And triumphs.
Giggles and grins,

And days that just weren't the best.
Lumbar Punctures,
 And medicines.
Art and Physical Therapy.


Breakdowns in grocery stores.
Hot flashes.
Long days.

Getting done what needs to be done.
Wishes made and realized.

And embracing all that has happened.

Since our daughter's chemotherapy came to an end the first week of November, we felt a need to celebrate.  And that's exactly what we did!  Lots of friends from the area where we live helped us congratulate Madi on all she has endured and accomplished.

The Grandparents were even able make the long drive to attend.

She has been through more in two years than most people go through in a lifetime.  She's a stronger and better person for it all.  I can't wait to see what she and our other kids do in their lives because of what they were exposed to during this phase.

As a mother, I'm learning a new type of worry.  Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of relief right now.  However, I'm also concerned every time she takes a nap in the middle of the day wondering if the treatments didn't work.

Tomorrow we go in for a final lumbar puncture and bone marrow biopsy.  Please, please, PLEASE - take a moment to say a prayer for our little one!  While I know we would be able to go through all of this again, it's NOT something we want to do.  I'm very selfish in wanting my kids to now be able to live normal lives and not lives consumed by appointments, medicines, worries or illness.

Thanks for all the kind words of encouragement up to this point.  You will never know how much even the smallest of acts has helped over time.

I'll let you all know the results of tomorrows tests as soon as we know!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Keeping Kids Naturally Healthy

Clearwater Beach Oct 2014
With five kids at home ranging in age from 11 to 4, you can imagine we have some pretty humorous conversations at times.  One comment from a couple months or so back really struck me as funny.  Here's what went on-

Me- Madi has an appointment tomorrow.  You kids need to get up and get ready, so we're not running behind in the morning.

Sawyer - Madi's doctor or my doctor?

Caroline - Madi's doctor.  We haven't been to see our doctor in a loooonnggg time.  Mom, I miss Dr. Carney.

Everyone chimes in in agreement.

At this point I just laughed at the fact that my kids were missing their pediatrician.  But it really got me thinking about how things had changed around our home and how much healthier we've all been. Then I started to wonder what the changes were that have made our lives healthier and better overall.  I came up with 3 major things.

1. They Drink More Water

This sounds way too easy a change, right?  Um.... no.  See the thing about drinking more water is it means the kids aren't drinking their usual beverage of choice.  What's in your pantry and fridge right now that the kids grab when thirsty?  Juice? Pop? Powder drink mix?Those were the big ones our kids drank all the time.  Pop/Soda/Coke is just all kinds of nasty.  Maybe not in taste, but definitely for their little bodies.  And we all know this.  Juice sounds better and we can even justify it in a lot of ways to be good for us.  However, juice is a sugary drink with very little nutritional value.  Do I really need to comment on the drink mix?

It took all of us a while to get used to filling a glass with water instead of one of the other choices above.  I was one of the biggest offenders!

What did I do to convince all the kids to reach for the water and not the pop?  Funny thing - when you only have water or milk in the house to drink, that's all anyone can drink.  If I knew I wasn't strong enough to say 'no' to a cold Dr. Pepper, how could I expect my 9-yr-old to say 'no'?!  I had to make the conscience decision not to buy certain drinks, so the temptation wouldn't be around.

My kids now crave water.  If they don't want water, there is always the option of milk.  Do they still drink the other?  Sure.  On occasion.  Sometimes there's no avoiding it.  Especially when you go to as many pitch-ins as our family does.  And, that's fine.  I just try to control the other 95% of the time.

2. I Cleaned Up Their Food

Food is hard.  Harder than changing what the kids drink.  Much harder.

Here's my experience :  I scour the internet for some wonderful, healthy, multi-step, labor intensive meal.  I spend my time and effort making this meal for six others and myself.  I serve it up for all of my amazing and loving family with a smile on my face.

And then REALITY hits....... ALL the kids turn up their noses and make a face like they just caught a glimpse of the most disgusting thing ever.  A couple of them pick up their fork and start making an attempt to at least look like they are going to try whatever is on their plate.  A couple of the kids don't care about hurting my feelings and flat out refuse to try the new culinary creation in front of them.  One might make an attempt to try the food; but, the measly morsel on the fork doesn't really count.  Then I casually glance at my loving husband and can tell by the look on his face he is only eating it to make me feel better.

About that time is when I want to throw in the towel and revert back to my box mixes, take out and casseroles.

It's frustrating, overwhelming and down right depressing at times to change the way you cook.  However, it is worth it so don't give up!

My best advice for you is K.I.S.S..  Keep It Simple (um) Sweetie.

It will take some time to learn a new way to cook.  That's OK.  Don't try to all the sudden become a chef that belongs in a 5 star restaurant.  Try fixing a lean protein, a couple of veggies or salad, and add in a fresh fruit on the side.  To make it even easier, keep the veggies raw or lightly steamed and sprinkle with garlic salt.  I love sending my husband out to the grill with our meat for the evening.  For those nights Kevin isn't home, I've learned to grill a couple things and have a couple of easy recipes for the stove top or oven to cook meat.  Having fruit at the table acts to both round out our meal and to satisfy the sweet tooth most of my family has.

It's a learning process for everyone.  We've tried many different veggies to see who likes what.  Carrots and cucumbers are the most popular in our house.  We have one kid who's idea of a good vegetable is corn and nothing else.  *sigh* We still make her try new things in hopes of her learning to like more foods.

Snacks is another area that's hard.  Keep lots of fresh foods and easy, healthy items the kids can get by themselves on hand.  Oranges, apples, bananas, cheese sticks or slices, yogurt, carrots, granola, nuts, raisins, celery, peanut butter, salsa, hummus, chips, ect....  Just keep an eye on the ingredients of any prepackaged foods you purchase.

3. Immunity Has Been Boosted

It's not always what your kids are exposed to, it's how strong their immune system is to combat it.

Think about it.  What we put in our bodies is either going to help or hurt our immune system.  That's just the way it is.  Sugar is going to wreak havoc on an immune system and make it much harder to fight off infection.  That's why cleaning up the food in your house will benefit your kids so much.

Another area that can impact the immune system is sleep or lack of it.  I know there are only so many hours in a day and there's always something going on or that needs to be done, but we all need our sleep.  Kids need even more.  Get them in bed at a good time each night as much as possible.  Our kids head to bed between 8 pm and 8:30 pm.  Do they fall asleep right away?  Not all of them.  The younger ones typically have no trouble.  The older kids can spend the time they are awake reading in bed.  Even our 6th grader has the same bedtime as the younger ones, as long as her homework is done.  She's able to get plenty of sleep, get up at 6 am and function better during the day since she gets a good amount of sleep.

We also supplement to boost their immune systems.

Multivitamins - The ones the kids take are chewable and have Lactoferrin (a component of the immune system) included in the ingredients.  It also helps our kids get the vitamins and minerals they don't get enough of from the foods they eat.

Probiotics - Did you know 60-70% of the immune system is located in our gut?  Taking a good probiotic helps keep the good bacteria at a level that will crowd out the bad and help prevent infection.  This is one thing our daughter's oncologist encouraged us to add to her diet when I asked him about taking a probiotic.

So.  Now you might be thinking..... Are you really able to do this all the time?

My answer...... AHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! {wiping away tears from eyes} NO.

Many foods in life taste really good even though they aren't good for us.  It's hard to not indulge every once in awhile.  And sometimes we have steroid induced cravings.

We try hard to keep things healthy, though.  The way we all feel and amount of energy we have when we do follow these simple rules makes it worth it.  Even the kids have commented about how 'yuck' they feel when they decide to eat poorly.

It's all fairly simple, it's just not necessarily easy.  Make small changes and take baby steps until you get where you want to be.  I'm always available to answer any questions and help where I can.

Here's to keeping all our kids healthy!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

At The End.... Finally

It's been exactly 26 months to the day since Madi started this long journey of needle pokes, blood draws, transfusions, chemo pushes and drips,  oral medications, doctor visits, and a lot of unknowns.  I originally likened this journey to a path through the woods.  You've seen the pictures, right?  Kinda like when Maurice and Philip are headed out to take his invention to the fair in Beauty and the Beast.  The horse looks between the two paths... one sunny and cheerful with birds chirping, the other dark and gloomy with ominous eyes glowing from the depths.

That's kind of the picture I had in my mind of how things would be.  Somedays we would be walking along the sunny path, other days (and more often than not) we would be walking along the dark, rocky, unknown path.

I look back at that naive perspective and have to laugh.  Hard.  And just shake my head at it all.

What's it really like?

It's more like unknowingly being line for a roller coaster.  And then, when it's time for you to get in your assigned cart, there's no way to back out or change your mind about getting on the ride.  Even worse, is that fact that the track for this roller coaster is completely hidden from view except for the enormous drop at the beginning, yet you know that isn't going to be the worst part of the ride.  You don't know what dips or turns there are ahead of you.  And there's no way to really even prepare for what's to come.

On the other side of that scenario, there is no equal to the views from the high points.  There is no comparison for how bright the sun can shine in those sunny places.  Nor is there a way to describe the new bonds you form with your fellow riders.  There are even a few places along this crazy ride you will find yourself actually enjoying where you are at that moment.

This is a moment we are enjoying because Madi had her final chemo drip today.  It's a really odd feeling to know she's done.  It was even hard for her to leave at the end of it all.  Even though we will now be going to the office more often for checks on her counts, she was in tears because she didn't want to leave.  Hard to imagine, but this has been our normal for 26 months.  I doubt she remembers much of her life before Leukemia.
There is a smile under that mask.
Decorated pole for her last chemo treatment.
It's been an unreal experience for our whole family.  Would I choose to go through it again? ABSOLUTELY NOT.  However, I will say this has been a time of growth and maturing for our entire family.  We now have a unique perspective, just as any other family would have going through a traumatic time.  The blessings that have come from a bad situation have been humbling and a source of strength and new faith for us, too.

We definitely have some worries, so please continue the prayers.  We have no guarantee of the future, but the prognosis is excellent. Madi will be monitored closely for then next several months, which will help to ease our minds.  She will also continue her immune therapy to hopefully keep her free of infections during cold and flu season.  (It will take about 6 months or more for her immune system to be able to fully function on it's own.)

The ride is long and unpredictable.  Yet, you find yourself at the end before you know it.  We now get to exit this roller coaster and move on to the next.  (To be honest, I'm really hoping this new one is more the speed of the 'It's a Small World' ride at Disney.)

Regardless of what comes next, we can at least say this ride is done and we are finally at the end.

**Also posted at madismilestone.blogspot.com**

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bowling Pumpkins

We are in full holiday swing around here.  Seems like as the kids get older, the costumes get a little more complicated and involved.  It's all good as long as we start working on them early enough.  (Not always the case each year, but we are getting better.)

This year I was in charge of the game for my son's preschool class.  Since there are 7 little boys in that one class and no girls, I wanted something that involved lots of movement.  And, after doing some searching online and on Pinterest, I decided to do a little bowling.

Such a quick and easy project!  You'll probably even have all the supplies on hand.

Whatcha Need:

6 paper towel rolls
14 sheets of orange construction paper
1 sheet of green construction paper
Permanent marker

Whatcha Do:

Tape 2 & 1/3 sheets of orange paper together.
Roll the orange construction paper around a roll of paper towels.
Repeat for all 6 rolls.
Cut the green construction paper into 6 equal squares and draw stems on each one.
Tape the cut out stems on the orange 'pumpkins'.
Use a permanent marker to draw faces on the 'pumpkins'.  Then set them up to play.
Use a ball to knock the pumpkin pins over.
My little helper - the king of photo bombs!
The game seemed to be a big hit with all the boys at the party today.  Hooray!  They then played tackle bowling with the pins just before we decided it was the end of their party.  Such is life with little boys, right?!

Enjoy your Halloween!

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